mutilple cucuzza 300x225 Cooking up CucuzzaWe have been cooking up cucuzza like crazy at the Covines.  My brother has had a bumper crop.  He has been sending fresh cucuzza our way for a few weeks and I have been cooking it up and sending some finished goods back his way.  It is what we call a win/win situation. With the help of all this cucuzza, I am getting very close to perfecting my stuffed cucuzza recipe.

Some of you may be asking what is a Cucuzza?  A cucuzza is a long squash.  There are several tasty ways one can cook cucuzza.  The first way I had it was my husband’s Nana’s recipe where she cooked it up with garlic, olive oil, onion and then added eggs and cheese towards the end to make a very delicious and rich casserole type dish.  I will get that recipe posted for you soon.

When cooking cucuzza you will want to peel it like a carrot.  Cucuzza does have seeds.  Depending on the size of the cucuzza, you may be able to leave the seeds in and eat them.  The general rule of thumb is the larger the cucuzza the tougher the seeds will be. You’ll be able to tell during prep if you will be able to eat them or not.  Large seeds will be obviously hard and almost yellow in color.  Edible seeds will be soft to the touch.  If you bite into the raw seeds and can chew them, you can cook them.

Here are a couple of recipes for different ways to cook cucuzza.

  • Chicken and Cucuzza with basil.  We add garlic to this recipe and serve it over rice.  This makes a lot and freezes well.
  • Italian Cucuzza Stew.  This is good even without the fresh thyme.  I served it with fresh bread.  My parents put the leftovers in the blender and then served it over pasta and LOVED it.
  • I haven’t tried this baked cucuzza and tomato recipe yet, but it is on my list to try.
  • Cucuzza Cake. This recipe is also on my going to try list. I will keep you posted.

As soon as I get my stuffed cucuzza recipe perfected I will share it too.  I hope everyone is having a great summer!

share save 171 16 Cooking up Cucuzza

Kids have a fabulous knack for providing a new perspective on almost everything.  Here are some amusing insights from my time with toddlers in the garden.

  • Seeds – I had to laugh the other day when Nick tried to eat the seeds I was planting.  They were pumpkin seeds and I could easily see how understanding which seeds are for snacking vs. planting would be a little confusing for a child who may be younger than the seeds.  Soon enough he will recognize the smell and feel of butter and salt and that should help him differentiate the two.
  • Balls vs. food  – Young Nicholas still cannot be convinced that these round things such as tomatoes, oranges, pomelo, etc. are not balls to be picked, played with and thrown whenever possible.  How wonderful it is to him to have this great place where balls grow on trees and come in all different sizes, colors and scents.
  • Water barrels – Don’t get me wrong I love the water barrel too. I love how the fish come and greet me when I fill my can.  After this painfully dry spring, the sight of a full barrel is delightful.  However, when  Nick starts to splash and play or maybe take a drink or two if he is thirsty, all that goes through my mine is, “will his vaccinations protect him from waterborne diseases?”  Nick may not be getting too much yard time until he and I can work this out.

You can see how the garden would be a little heaven on earth for a child except for all the fuss and fighting he gets from mom about all of his favorites things. You can also see why I am not getting so much done in the yard these days and why there are so few blooming plants. Concentration is solely on the edibles until Nick works through a few of these habits.  I have had enough time on the phone with poison control to last me a while. This spring I joked that soon I would dial poison control and they would simply answer, “Hello Gretchen, it is a beautiful day, we were wondering when you might call. What did Nicholas eat today?”

Got a funny story about your little one in the garden?

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THIS POST IS CO-AUTHORED By: Gretchen Covine & Cristi Comes
Nothing can break your heart or dampen your new-baby-bliss quite like signs of jealousy from your existing children. In fact, acting out by your older kids can sometimes be a trigger for PPD and other postpartum mood issues. So it’s definitely nothing to sneeze at.

This is such an important topic to discuss, because there are SO many challenges with bringing home subsequent children. It can really rock your world. But here’s where learning from other parents can be so helpful. There are tons of ideas to help make the transition easier.

So we wanted to share a few of ours, and hope you’ll share your ideas with us too.

Gretchen Covine, Mom of 3 boys ages 9, almost 7, and 19 months, EdenFeed
A friend recently had her second child and we were discussing the challenges of helping existing children with the transition.  Parents of multiple children (like us) know one thing for sure… no two children are alike.  A tactic that works with one child may not work with the next, so being prepared with a lot of ideas can be so helpful.

I think it’s important to note that a new baby brings enormous changes to the family, and everyone Mom, Dad, siblings (and even pets) will need a little adjustment time with the new family make-up. If you’re goal is shooting for a perfectly smooth and seamless transition, you may be setting yourself up for failure.  There are bumps along every new path.

Also, if you’re bringing a new baby home to a toddler, your toddler will still be a “toddler.” No matter how much you work with them through the new baby transition, the “terrible twos and threes” are still going to happen.  And if they haven’t started prior to baby, the new family addition may jump start it. It’s good to remember its normal for a toddler to act out and push the envelope. Be careful not to over associate these behaviors with the new baby.

For me, prepping my firstborn for the new baby started well before baby’s arrival.  As my belly grew I let Michael apply the “belly butter” I used to help avoid stretch marks on my belly.  We included him in the nursery preparation. As we pulled out his old baby clothes we talked with him about times he spent in certain outfits. He told us about his favorites and we put his favorite outfits in one drawer.  For the hospital we bought a gift from baby David to Michael for when he came to visit at the hospital.  We also made sure that Tony and I were not holding the baby when he first came into the hospital room.

After David was born we introduced “school,” a special spot in our home just for Michael to show him that growing offers cool things too like getting to do school assignments and crafts.  I would spend some time each day with him at “school”.  I did this both with and without David in my arms. But when I first started I tried to make it special Michael and me time. But ultimately it didn’t work out well to not include David, and Michael liked “school” enough that he was OK with David being there too.

I turned nursing time for David into Mikey and me chill down time. Michael chose books to read, the quiet activity to do, or the cartoon to watch and we would kind of snuggle or sit close during this time. Sometimes Mikey and I would make up stories to tell the baby together or play silly word games during this time.

Tony spent quite a bit of Mikey and Daddy time together to play catch, wrestle time, and go for a walk or ice cream with Daddy. Mommy and David would stay behind, “David was a baby and not big enough for these things yet.”

I also used things with the new baby as an opportunity to tell a story about Michael.  For instance, I might make up a story while dressing David about Michael wearing that outfit, and what we did that when he wore it as a baby or how Michael liked to be held or cuddled when he was this age.

Our friends and family participated in the transition by bringing gifts and treats for Michael when coming to visit baby David, playing with Michael while others held the baby and inviting Michael out on special “big boy expeditions.”

Cristi Comes, Mom of Ronin (almost 4 years) and Ellie (17 months), Motherhood Unadorned

For me, bringing home baby was a HUGE challenge. Ronin was incredibly shy, anxious and attached so we knew this was going to be an extra difficult transition for him.

He was always a terrible sleeper, and for all of his life, I handled the night time parenting during the week and John took over on the weekends. But we knew when Ellie arrived, my night time would be spent nursing and co-sleeping with E. So John took over the night time routine prior to Ellie’s arrival. A very difficult transition, but we hoped it would help him adjust to the fact that Mama was not with him at night, and not blame baby.

After I became pregnant, we bought him a baby doll of his own and started talking about the care and love of his own baby. My growing belly was too abstract for his 2-year-old mind to comprehend, so this was his introduction. We’d dress and feed the baby together, put the baby doll down for naps and spend time playing with the baby.

To ease his experience with us away for Ellie’s birth, my mom flew in from Florida and his Aunt Amber were both scheduled to stay with him over night. At this point, he had not spent much time with babysitters other than family, so we wanted to make sure he felt supported and was with people he truly loved and trusted. We had planned for John to go home and get him to come meet his sister for the first time in the hospital, so that his introduction to her would not be her invading his home. However, he unfortunately came down with a horrible Croop at the worst time possible, and could not come to the hospital.

The introduction was her invading his home, followed by his mama struggling to nurse his baby sister around the clock. John took a week off and my mom stayed for a few weeks, but he still felt incredibly jealous. He acted out, hitting and yelling, especially when I was nursing Ellie. He did NOT like this new addition. And I can tell you it’s the struggle of this time that truly pushed me into my own extra special bout of PPD.

I began asking friends for advice about what they had done to help with the transition, and got some wonderful feedback. One friend had a fun basket for her older child. It included special toys and books and activities that he could play with only while she was nursing. Another made nursing time snuggle and story time.

The best advice for me was to get out of the house as much as possible. I know it can be a challenge with two little ones but for me I found it the most helpful advice on a few levels. Ronin could get out and burn off his energy, whether at the park, playground, zoo, and museum or play area. Ellie could nap and nurse in my carrier, making her very happy. And while she was sleeping or nursing, I could focus my attention on Ronin, which he desperately needed. Lastly, it was good for me too. I was able to interact with other adults and get myself up and out of bed (my preferred location when depressed).

In the end, it’s important to do *something* to help your older siblings with the transition, and not expect that they’ll just get it and be happy with the new little one. Their whole life perspective is about to change, going from center of your universe to second place (in their little eyes, when baby is getting constant 24/7 attention). It is normal and it is natural.

What are your best tips & tricks for introducing baby and transitioning new baby into the family? Help a mother out and share what worked best for you.

Motherhood is challenging, but together, we’re not alone.

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Okay so we have discussed using basil and using dill in past weeks.  This week let’s discuss Rosemary.

We used to have a very large rosemary bush right next to our front door and people often commented on how good our house smelled when they walked into the door.  Tony and I had no idea why until one evening after our usual summer Florida rain I caught the smell of fresh rosemary while walking through the front door.

We use rosemary in the following:

  1. Potato soup – I add a bit of fresh or dried rosemary to my home made potato soup when I make it.
  2. Lentil soup – I have a lentil soup recipe from cooking light that includes rosemary and sage.  Once I made this soup with a ham bone we had from a HoneyBaked ham.  HoneyBaked hams have that yummy glaze on them.  That ham bone gave that pot of soup the added flavor of cloves.  So I have added a little clove to this recipe ever since.
  3. Steak – Tony makes a delicious marinade for steaks and London broils using rosemary, garlic and olive oil.  He spreads it over the meat and lets it sit for awhile before grilling.  He does not remove it on the grill. It is very rich and delicious.
  4. Potatoes – Rosemary goes great with potatoes roasted in the oven as well.  I add some rosemary, garlic powder, salt, and pepper then drizzle with olive oil and roast diced potatoes in the oven at 400 degrees until golden.
  5. Chicken/Pork – Rosemary makes a simple and flavorful herb for making baked chicken or pork.  A few sprigs of rosemary on your chicken or pork with a little salt, pepper, garlic powder and olive oil if you like are all you need for a flavorful main dish.
  6. Fresh bread – I like adding rosemary to fresh baked bread.   Often when I make crusty round bread I will make two loaves, leaving one plain for the boys and adding fresh or dried rosemary to the second.

How do you use rosemary?

share save 171 16 How do you use rosemary?

A couple of years ago I was reading a novel by Pearl Cleage called What Looks Like Crazy on An Ordinary Day. In this book on page 158 there is a list…


1.      How to grow food and flowers

2.      How to prepare food nutritiously

3.      Self-defense

4.      Basic first aid/sex education and midwifery

5.      Child care (prenatal/early childhood development)

6.      Basic literacy/basic math/basic computer skills

7.      Defensive driving/map reading/basic auto and home repairs

8.      Household budget/money management

9.      Spiritual practice

10.   Physical fitness/health/hygiene

Skills are an important element of everyone’s livelihood and critical for creating a more self-sufficient or sustainable lifestyle.  So this list stood out to me then as quite reasonable and sensible.  At the time, I also noted that this list included many skills we were using regularly in our quest for a more sustainable lifestyle.  Since I read the book I have thought of this list several times and decided to check the book out at the library again and give the list another look.  In the book the list was created as part of the work a character in the novel was doing with young girls and mothers.  Rereading the list, I can’t help looking at it through the lenses of both my experience pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle and as parent trying to provide my children a solid foundation that will equip them to lead happy, fruitful futures.  From those two perspectives, I think the list is a great start to skills that everyone desiring a more self reliant and independent lifestyle should possess as well as skills we should pass along to our children so they can have as many options as possible in their future.

I love the scene in the movie Cold Mountain where Nicole Kidman’s character throws a little fit talking about all the things she knows but how poorly that knowledge equips her to work her land and feed herself.  Given how impossible it is to control what the future may hold for ourselves or our children I feel safer giving my children a diverse upbringing and foundation.

Here are a few things that I would add to the list above as we explore the skills we find important in creating our EdenFeed lifestyle and feel will give our children the best ability to create their own desired lifestyles (whatever they may be) in the future.

I would add to the following skills to the above list…

  • Good manners
  • How to be easy to teach
  • Ability to entertain oneself
  • Preserving and storing food and herbs for off season use
  • The ability to communicate and work well with others
  • Basic understanding of one’s immediate environment
  • Simple sewing
  • Animal care and husbandry
  • Fishing, gathering and hunting
  • Basic survival skills
  • The ability to laugh

You might look at my additions above and ask what does having good manners and being easy to teach have to do with the ability to live more sustainably.  I believe manners have a substantial impact on the way others perceive you…your education, your wealth or class, and your capability.  Demonstrating good manners helps people get farther in life both personally and professionally.  As far as being easy to teach, I have found that so much of a person’s education happens on the job and in the moment.  I am so grateful that I have had so many wonderful teachers in my life. Many of whom were not ‘teachers” per se, but took the time to share with me their knowledge and skills.

What would you add to the list of sustainable skills or important life skills everyone should possess?

share save 171 16 Skills for Creating a More Sustainable Lifestyle

DSCN46761 300x225 How do you use Dill?As I mentioned in a recent blog about using herbs, we are going to discuss a different herb each week for a bit.  Last week we talked about using basil and our readers shared some of their favorite ways they use basil. Thanks everyone who shared last week!

This week let’s talk about dill.  Dill is a helpful tool inside the kitchen and out.

Did you know that dill is supposed to keep the tomato horn worm away?  My next try at tomatoes I am surrounding them with dill, garlic and basil.  The garlic and basil are also supposed to help repel pests and the basil supposedly helps provide important nutrients to the soil that may improve the taste of the tomato.  Sorry I did not include that basil tip in last week’s basil blog, but I just discovered it this week when I reread this article on companion planting – some good info in this article that I will be testing in the garden from here on out.  I will keep you posted on what I learn.

Increasing the amount of dill plants in my garden will work out well. We are really starting to go through the dill in our kitchen these days and now that I have successfully learned to dry my herbs we are all set.

Here are some of the ways we use dill in the kitchen…

When I learned a friend used dill in an amazing mushroom appetizer she makes where she crock pots whole mushrooms with wine, butter and dill overnight to serve at parties I started playing with dill more in my kitchen especially with anything that has wine, butter and mushrooms.

  • So now I add dill to my beef tips when I make it.
  • We add dill to our own sautéed mushrooms we frequently make with steaks.
  • We use dill in the herb ranch dressing recipe I mentioned in a post earlier this spring.
  • Dill is a key ingredient in a mashed cauliflower dish I make.  Simply steam cauliflower until it is tender enough to mash. Then add cream cheese, a pad of butter, dill, salt and pepper.  I do this all to taste.  It is a hit in our house, even the toddler digs it.

How are you using Dill at your house?

share save 171 16 How do you use Dill?

As promised in my last blog on using basil here are some of the ways EdenFeed Readers are using basil…

1. “love putting whole basil leaves on when we make our own pizzas… smells (and tastes) heavenly and I’ve always wanted to try a recipe for lime-basil sorbet that I saw on Jamie Oliver a long time ago”…

In case someone else wants to try that lime-basil sorbet, here is the recipe.

2.  “One thing I’ve always done is stack large basil leaves on a piece of foil and roll them up to seal and freeze for winter pizzas. A stack of 5-10 fills a pizza, depending on how much basil you like. They’re dark when they thaw, but that’s to be expected.”

Personally, I am a big fan of basil, slices of fresh tomatoes and roasted garlic on homemade pizza. To roast garlic simply put cloves of garlic (in peel) on cookie sheet in the oven at 350 degrees until desired tenderness and then remove from the peel slice and add to your pizza.

3.  “Compound butter and pesto- I pack them in 1/4 pint jars and freeze them.”

I have not made pesto yet myself, but have been wanting to the past couple of weeks.  I have even looked up a pesto recipe so I am ready should I find some extra time in my schedule.  We don’t eat a lot of pesto on pasta, but at a party recently we had pesto drizzled on Havarti cheese and crackers that was delicious.

Thanks everyone for the comments and helping write this post for me! icon smile Some more basil ideas... I hope everyone is having a great week.  I will feature another herb in the kitchen later this week and I look forward to hearing how you are using it.


share save 171 16 Some more basil ideas...

A woman mentioned to me she wished she knew more about using herbs.  She enjoyed their beauty and aroma, but she did not have a lot of experience cooking or working with them and so was frustrated that they would too often go to waste in her yard.   Personally herbs are some of my favorite plants as the investment is so minimal and the payoff so great.

Herbs have been the foundation of a lot of my learning both in the garden and the kitchen. So I figured we could offer some help and ideas for her and others who may be struggling to use up their own bounty of herbs.  Over the next several weeks I thought we would pick an herb ech week and spend a little time discussing some of the ways one can use them.

Like most plants, herbs will produce more when they are pruned and used frequently.  This gives one a great excuse to experiment and play with herbs and their many uses.  I would love your help with this feature so if you have a favorite use or recipe to share for any of the herbs we discuss please share.  You can do so via the comments section, facebook, or twitter.  If you share an idea on facebook or twitter, I will most likely add it to the blog so everyone can enjoy it and we can all have easy reference to it in the future.

Okay so let’s get started.

This week, basil.

We use a ton of basil in our kitchen.  Basil was a driving force in my garden development because if we had to purchase all the basil we use in our kitchen we would be broke.

Here are some of the ways we use it at house.

  1. We make our own pasta sauce and basil is a key ingredient.
  2. We add basil (quite a bit actually) to our meatloaf.  It is delicious.
  3. I add basil, cilantro and red onion to our Italian salads.
  4. Caprese salad.  I could make this easy tomato, basil and mozzarella salad every night of the week and I still don’t think my oldest would get enough of it.
  5. I like basil on sandwiches.  I layer basil up like lettuce with turkey and avocado, so good.
  6. We make a chicken and cuczza dish with basil that we serve over rice.
  7. I make an easy pasta dish with chicken, feta sausage, olive oil, garlic and basil.  I get the chicken feta sausage at Land and Sea Market and just cut it up.  Simmer in olive oil with a few cloves of crushed garlic then add boiled pasta (I usually use penne or bow tie, some additional feta cheese, basil (I usually use half to whole cup basil and don’t add until I am right about to serve) and salt/pepper to taste and serve with a little parmesean cheese .

So what’s your favorite way to use basil?  Please share.  I always enjoy discovering more great ways to use this delicious herb.  You can share via the comments section below, facebook, or twitter.  Remember if you share an idea on facebook or twitter, I will most likely add it to the blog so everyone can enjoy it and we can all have easy reference to it in the future.

I hope everyone has a delicious Memorial Day weekend.

share save 171 16 How do you use basil?

We can’t help it, we love to eat.  But that is not the only reason food is such an important element of our lives.

We view food as much more than merely sustenance.  Sure our bodies must have fuel to live and so we must eat.  However, what we choose to put into our mouths makes a world of difference.  The decisions we make about our diets and what we choose to eat has more impact than we often give them credit.  Most of us know that eating a nutritious, balanced diet is important to our overall health, but when was the last time we considered the impact our eating habits had on the health of our environment or the quality of our lives?  Our relationships with food and our dietary choices can also contribute to our families and communities.

First, let’s talk about the environmental impact of our diets.  Processing, packaging, modern agriculture, and transportation all involve valuable resources.  Choosing a diet that limits all of these can have a huge environmental impact.  Many would argue that changing our eating habits can have as much environmental impact as the car we choose to drive.  Given that food is one of the largest consumables in our household it definitely makes a difference in the Covine carbon footprint.   You don’t need to be a vegetarian or eat only organic foods to make a difference environmentally.  Increasing the amount of low processed, low packaged foods will immediately help REDUCE the amount of resources consumed and trash generated.  Try to RECYCLE, REUSE, or COMPOST as a first option to simply trashing your used groceries and their packaging. Reducing the amount of meat you eat, particularly red meat makes a difference too.  Buying what you can locally helps reduce the transportation involved in feeding yourself and your family.

How we eat and what we eat impacts not only our health, but the quality of our lives.  In our home, food feeds more than our bodies.  It feeds our souls, families and communities, heritage, respect for other cultures, and adds luxury to our daily lives.

Feeding our souls Sure we eat our share of heat & eat meals at the Covine house, but the norm includes dinners that require preparation and are mostly made up of low processed foods and fresh ingredients.  Tony has always loved to cook.  He is one of those people who can taste a dish once and pretty much figure out how to replicate it, with or without a recipe.  Cooking with Tony, I have learned a lot over the years, but my cooking really sprouted up when I started gardening.  As I learned more about the foods and herbs I was growing (their smells, flavors and many uses) my skills and artistry grew in the kitchen as did my enjoyment.

Feeding our families and communities It has been said that children who eat regular family dinners do better in school and have more confidence.  That makes sense.  Family dinner is a treasured part of our boys’ day. You can tell by how, “what’s for dinner” is sure to be asked within the first few moments they return from school.  They never have to be called to dinner twice and they come ready to share the highlights of their day.  When someone is running late and they are given an option to eat or wait, they almost always wait.

We seem to have expanded the reach of the family dinner through our many food related family activities…the garden, strawberry picking, veggie runs, and sharing our bounties with family, friends, and neighbors.  Through doing these activities with or around our children we have seen how food can impact a child’s confidence and understanding about their place in a family or community even when they are not actually eating anything.  They love the garden, even if they aren’t always interested in the actual work. They like us being out there working in the yard while they are playing.  They like harvesting the food because it is fun to find and when they show it to someone and share the bounty they will get a positive reaction whether they are bringing it to my husband or I, grandma, grandpa, nana, nano, aunts, uncles or the neighbors.  When we have more than what we can eat of something in the yard the boys are always willing to pick it and take it to a neighbor.

Feeding our heritage We are passing down many family traditions and knowledge through our kitchen and garden (Oh and fishing).  The boys have never met their great-grandfather, Banino, as we call him, but they have spent a lot of time with him through the kitchen and the garden.  They can tell you how he liked his pasta and what some of his favorite plants and animals were.  Many times Tony or I have been transported back to a childhood moment by the smell of the kitchen or a walk in the garden. We imagine the same will happen for our children in the future.  Family traditions and understanding help people be together long after our bodies give out.  At Tony’s Nana’s funeral last summer, one of the eulogies included stories of Nana’s cooking and baking.  On the way from the church to the grave site, our boys said, “What about the succo? I can’t believe they did not talk about Banina’s succo!” Succo Sunday at our home is not just dinner, it is a celebration of our family – past, present and future.

Respect for other cultures The dinner table is most definitely a place where all cuisine is honored and devoured by my family.  My husband and I are finding food to be a delicious and effective way to teach our children about other cultures.  Since they have always been exposed to a lot of different kinds of food they are very open to trying new things.  We are learning that their palettes are as adventurous as their spirits.  Since food and eating are such a natural part of their family routines it seems to be an easy way for them to relate to another culture with compassion and understanding, as a simple extension of their human family.  Everyone eats; we just may eat different things…all of them delicious for the most part.

Luxury No matter how your day is going, sitting down to a delicious meal makes it better.  Sitting down to a delicious dinner with loved ones makes it an event.  So no matter what one’s income level, one can eat like royalty especially if they possess a few simple skills in shopping, gardening, gathering, and cooking.

So, what’s for dinner?

share save 171 16 Food, Glorious Food!!!  Food has the Power to Alter Moods, Health, and The Environment.

Okay, so maybe a blur is a better description than buzz…the past eight weeks has included: winter harvesting, multiple cases of strep throat, spring planting, a family wedding, several birthdays, a retirement celebration, two trips to resorts, several colds, the magic kingdom, international visitors, spring break, parent teacher conferences, eco-friendly mom blog contests, way TOO MANY days of teething, mother’s day, Easter, flag football play offs, a college reunion trip, some writer’s block, and a new baby for my HUCO Marketing partner!  Through all of this activity I am reminded AGAIN that…Mother Nature waits for NO ONE.

This is one of the many challenges I face when trying to live a more simple, more attuned with nature lifestyle…balancing the demands and timelines of mother nature with the those of our “regular lives.” Sometimes I feel like I have one foot planted in one world and another foot that walks in a completely different one.  Often the needs of one world feel directly at odds with the other.

Another obstacle is the sheer amount of learning and knowledge one must gain in order to make sustainability even a remote possibility.  For example, look outside the house and think of the many lessons there are to be learned in that classroom.  There are an infinite number of variables and possibilities for…planting, harvesting, canning, cooking, storing, pests, soil conditions, etc. Add to that all the opportunities to reclaim and reuse rainwater and the world of compost.  We have not even explored livestock and animal options yet.  It is almost lucky that the Home Owners Association keeps these from my to-do list, for now.  Inside the house is yet another classroom with its necessary learning and knowledge including all the different ways to reduce our energy and chemical consumption, minimize material waste and make the home work more harmoniously with Mother Nature.

So between the amount of knowledge I still need to master and Mother Nature’s inability to alter her timeline for me, I must push on through my busy schedule and make sure to squeeze in some sustainability learning in every season no matter what else is on the docket.  Here are a few things that I have explored this past spring…

  1. Harvesting the seeds from my plants.  I am trying to harvest the seeds directly from the plants that are doing the best in my yard.  I have been working with both drying and fermenting techniques.  For example with a couple of different lettuces that did very well this year, I kept the plant alive to go to seed.  Once the seed pockets appeared, I have let them dry either on the plant or in my dehydrator.  Once they are dried, I have been using different techniques for separating the seeds from the seed pocket.  Not always an easy task depending on the size of the seed and the seed pocket.                                                              Fermenting Seeds, such an easy and simple trick. I could not be more pleased about learning the fermenting technique for recovering seeds.  I have just completed a very successful cacuzza seed gathering.  I celebrate every time I walk by my container of cacuzza seedlings! I have over a dozen little cacuzza sprouts from a cacuzza that was left over and sitting on my mom’s back porch since last fall.  Using the fermentation process I have had about 90% or more of the captured seeds I planted successfully sprout.  I had very little luck in previous attempts to harvest seeds from my cacuuza squash using a drying method.  If you are a cacuzza fan you know that seeds are hard to come by and expensive.  The last pack of seeds I bought was more than $4.00 a packet (plus shipping) and the sprout success on that seed pack was definitely under 50%.  I am in the process of fermenting cucumber seeds from the excellent producing plants I currently have going in the yard.
  2. Dried herbs.  Now that I have a dehydrator I have jars of my homegrown herbs successfully dried and stored in the spice cabinet.  My mother, the amazing nature mama she is, finds amusement at my dehydrator delight as she continues to successfully dry everything using nothing but paper towels or the oven.  However, I did not inherit this ability and almost everything I attempted to dry without my dehydrator was pretty much a sad failure.
  3. Pickled beets.  Because of my limited space and time, I usually only grow a few things at a time and as I find success with those I add in a few more new things in the mix.  I successfully harvested enough beets this year to make two jars of pickled beets.  Since there were only two jars I did not can them, but simply made the beets and stored them in jars in fridge. They will not last long enough to go bad.  I think we’re already down to a partial remaining jar.  Canning remains a skill I must learn.

Okay so that is what I have been up lately.  I hope you are enjoying your spring.  As Spring quickly grows into the longer and hotter days of summer, I think it is worth us collectively considering how these two challenges I describe in this post relates to our future growth and health.  As we all fight to keep our families afloat during the busy seasons of our lives and through the challenges that the economy and mother nature keeps throwing our way (flooding and other natural disasters), we too cannot ignore the new skills and tools we will need to become more sustainable for long.  Like I said Mother Nature waits for NO ONE.

No matter what method we choose in the future to create more sustainable societies and energy sources, we will need time and fossil fuels to develop the skills and materials needed to get those systems up and operational.  If we wait too long, that time and those fuels may not be available. So although it feels like we have more pressing matters to address now, we have to be careful not to wait too long or Mother Nature will leave us behind.  If you look at our collective history this past decade I think we can all agree that our success at envisioning and avoiding the potential dangers and disasters that exist has not been so stellar.  We need to be careful to not repeat this lack of foresight again, no matter whether the future dangers are economic, terrorism, or environmental.  Okay enough of the doom and gloom.  Sorry about that, maybe it is all this talk about the rapture. icon smile  The Spring has been a buzz of activity and learning.




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